Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has launched a remarkable reaction to jibes from Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.
The Spanish powerhouses will clash in the third El Clasico in as many weeks in the first leg on their Champions League semi-final Wednesday.
This time, it seems, it is personal.
In his pre-match press conference prior to their leg at the Bernabeu, the normally reserved Guardiola responded brutally to Mourinho’s claims that the Barca boss was a consistent critic of referees.
The 40-year-old former Barca defensive midfielder said he tolerated Mourinho’s loose lips during the season.
But once the whistle blew to kick-off their semi-final tie, Guardiola believed that was when the real battle will begin.
“Tomorrow … we will play a match on the field. Outside of the field, he (Mourinho) has won the entire year, the entire season and in the future. He can have his personal Champions League outside the field. Fine. Let him enjoy it, I’ll give him that,” Guardiola said.
“But this is a game. When it comes to sport, we will play and sometimes we will win, sometimes we will lose. We are happy with smaller victories, trying to get the world to admire us and we are very proud of this.”
“I can give you an immense list of things (that Barcelona could complain about) – 300,000 things. We could remember Stamford Bridge (when then-Chelsea boss Mourinho criticised referee Anders Frisk and opposition Barca boss Frank Rijkaard) and another thousand things but I do not have that many people working for me, secretaries and referees and people writing stuff. So tomorrow … we will take to the field and we will try to play football as best as possible.”
“In this room (Real Madrid’s press room), he is the chief, the f—— man. In here, he is the f—— man and I can’t compete with him. If Barcelona want someone who competes with that, then they should look for another manager. But we, as a person and an institution, don’t do that. I could talk about (Olegario) Bequerenca (the referee from Barcelona’s semi-final first leg with Inter last season), about the offside goal from Diego Milito or the penalty of (Dani) Alves, but I don’t.”
“If you think after three years, that I always moan, always make excuses and always complain, then there is nothing I can do about that.”
Mourinho – at his official press conference earlier on Wednesday – had previously baited his coaching counterpart by claiming that Guardiola criticised referees, regardless of whether they were right or wrong.
“Now there is a third group (of coaches), which is only (Guardiola), that criticises referees when they get decisions right. There is a new meaning to (football) now,” Mourinho said.
“In his first season, (Guardiola) lived the scandal of Stamford Bridge, last year he played against a 10-man Inter (Champions League semi-final). Now he is not happy with refs getting it right. I am not asking the referee to help my team. If the referee is good everyone will be happy – except Guardiola. He wants them to get it wrong.”
The bitter converse between the two team leaders will ensure the final two El Clasicos this campaign will undoubtedly be the most memorable.
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